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Three: We're In the Money!

Basil couldn't really believe that this was his house.

He remembered darker days. It had just been him, Hannah, and Lyric, back then. They'd moved into this miserable, urine-soaked hovel because it was all they could afford. He still remembered peeling off every last limp, velvet-soft bill into the coarse little hands of its gap-toothed, hillbilly owner. The wretched old turd had insisted on cash, up front.

Why had they tolerated this, again? Oh, He'd wanted to be a musician. Right. It was all coming back, now. And Hannah had been so understanding about it. She'd cooked and cleaned while he tuned his guitar and dreamed of spearheading the big Acid Jazz Explosion everyone agreed was in the cards. But the money had run out, and he'd taken that job as a... God, what was it? A campaign worker, or something. He barely even knew, now. But it paid the bills, and that was all he cared about at the time. It was supposed to be temporary.

Now he was in Congress. United States Congress. Elected by the constituency of Sim State. How could people be so goddamn stupid?!

Damn it all. He just wanted to play his guitar.

Todd leaned on the horn before he pulled away. He was a good kid, had high hopes to be where Basil was, one day. What he didn't know was that Baz woulda switched places with him in a second. Little bastard probably headed home to an empty studio flat, a six pack, and a bass every night. It sounded like Heaven.

The house had been redone a week ago. A lot of the neighbors had whispered about the Experiments finding the motherlode or plucking some lucky rosebud, but the truth was worse.

Basil had helped out a colleague at work; just a little fact-checking on her election year rival, was all. He had lots of friends, friends that knew things. It was no biggie. If the bastard had been a saint, he wouldn't have found anything in the first place, so it wasn't HIS fault, not really. But the guy had been King of the Baby-Touching Klansmen, and after a few strategic emails to certain news networks, Basil's buddy was a lock this November. That buddy had slipped a $30,000 check into Basil's coat pocket that day after work, and smiled like an eel.

Basil felt dirty.

Same phone. Same baby toys. Same smoke alarm and light fixtures, even. But Hannah had refitted the dining area with every modern convenience. They had a dishwasher now, and a trash compactor, too. That old refugee-from-the-50s dinette table was gone. And the new stove was top of the line. Hannah had laughed like a crazy person when they'd hauled away the old one, along with the old carpeting and wallpaper and tile. It had tried to set them all on fire, once.

God, those were the days.

They still had the same old crib, carefully detailed to fit a color scheme that no longer existed. And Hannah had had her latest baby, number four.

Allegra. Another girl.

Was it so wrong to want a son? Basil didn't think so. He loved his daughters and all, kind of, but he wanted a goddamn BOY. He reminded himself to invest in a little more of that "Elixir of Life" stuff. He and Hannah weren't about to give up, not yet. Well, HE wasn't, anyway. He was DUE for a boy, dammit, DESERVED one. He needed a little camaraderie in this fucking hen house or he was going to scream.

The Red Room. My God, this had been the bedroom, once. ALL of them had slept in here, packed in tight like a tin of sardines. Now it was just a rec room, with a brand-new computer, bookshelf, and sound system that made the devil himself bang on his ceiling with a broom.

Huh. There was that girl, again. Mary Sue's girl. Shit, which one was it? Basil hated twins, never could tell 'em apart.

Black lipstick! LILITH. Right, that was the one. And still in her nightclothes, too. She'd slept over, he remembered. Guess she couldn't be arsed to go to school. That would fit.

Mary Sue liked to babble about the kid after the dull thrill of their brief, passionless infidelities. She was trouble, Mary said. Fought, wouldn't do her homework, couldn't make decent conversation, wolfed down her food, that sort of thing. But Coda seemed to like her, strangely. And that kid of his was always such a straight-shooter. She still had an A+ average, so what was the harm? Just two kids dancing together. They did that a lot, but wasn't that the in thing, now? Same-sex dancing? You know, like snuggle parties. Whatever. Basil felt older every day.

He left them to it all, and helped himself to some cake.


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